Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hartog, Someday All This Will Be Yours: A History of Inheritance and Old Age

Someday All This Will Be Yours: A History of Inheritance and Old Age, by Hendrik Hartog, has just been published by Harvard University Press.  Attendees of the 2010 American Society for Legal History Conference will remember the very fine and moving keynote lecture Dirk gave, drawn from the book.

Here's the press book description:
We all hope that we will be cared for as we age. But the details of that care, for caretaker and recipient alike, raise some of life’s most vexing questions. From the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, as an explosive economy and shifting social opportunities drew the young away from home, the elderly used promises of inheritance to keep children at their side. Hendrik Hartog tells the riveting, heartbreaking stories of how families fought over the work of care and its compensation.

Someday All This Will Be Yours narrates the legal and emotional strategies mobilized by older people, and explores the ambivalences of family members as they struggled with expectations of love and duty. Court cases offer an extraordinary glimpse of the mundane, painful, and intimate predicaments of family life. They reveal what it meant to be old without the pensions, Social Security, and nursing homes that now do much of the work of serving the elderly. From demented grandparents to fickle fathers, from litigious sons to grateful daughters, Hartog guides us into a world of disputed promises and broken hearts, and helps us feel the terrible tangle of love and commitments and money.

From one of the bedrocks of the human condition—the tension between the infirmities of the elderly and the longings of the young—emerges a pioneering work of exploration into the darker recesses of family life. Ultimately, Hartog forces us to reflect on what we owe and are owed as members of a family.
And the endorsements:
In this gem of a book, Hartog reveals the human drama of growing old and dependent, and the enduring dilemma in mixing love and economic need.
--Martha Minow, Dean, Harvard Law School

Hartog brilliantly illuminates the central role that law has played in shaping Americans' ideas about getting old. Poignant, funny, and analytically razor-sharp, this is a groundbreaking book.
--Dylan Penningroth, author of The Claims of Kinfolk: African American Property and Community in the Nineteenth-Century South

With empathy and captivating style, Hartog, a superb historian, offers a memorable analysis of changing family struggles over inheritance and care.
--Viviana A. Zelizer, author of Economic Lives: How Culture Shapes the Economy

This is a disturbing book, in the best sense--a transformative book. With unique sensitivity and ingenuity, Hartog tells a profound story about the meaning of inheritance and what one owes and is owed as a member of a family, making brilliant history of seemingly eternal human predicaments.
--Amy Dru Stanley, author of From Bondage to Contract: Wage Labor, Marriage, and the Market in the Age of Slave Emancipation
Felicia Kornbluh posted her thoughts and Dirk's, about the book and his body of work, here.  Naomi Cahn, George Washington Law School, reviews the book on Concurring Opinions.